WPOTY 2014: Shortlisted

Another year, another shortlisted image! This time in the ‘Invertebrates’ category:

Pond skaters

River sprites

Canon 600D + 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens; 2 sec @ f/40; ISO 100

This is a long exposure image of pond skaters (Gerris sp.) in motion, taken in the shady bend of a local river one summer afternoon. Shortly after this frame was captured my tripod toppled over and the camera went for an expensive swim!

Unfortunately this year’s entry again failed to make the final cut. Congratulations to The Winners.

Related links:

Shortlisted: BWPA and WPOTY 2013

Fox cub at night

Fox cub (Vulpes vulpes) in car headlights

Well it’s been another case of “nearly, not quite” in the furiously competitive world of wildlife photography this year…

WPOTY 2013

My image of a red fox cub in car headlights (above) was shortlisted in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in the ‘Creative’ category, but progressed no further.

Driving home one night I encountered 3 cubs gamboling about in a narrow country lane without a care in the world. They were oblivious to the sound of car engines and headlights. I hope they survived to adulthood.

As any technically-fastidious wildlife photographer will tell you the term ‘creative’ is reserved for blurry, out-of-focus images, and this effort on my part made no attempt to challenge that prejudice!

BWPA 2013

In the domestic British Wildlife Photography Awards this year my image of a glow worm displaying against leaf litter was shortlisted in the ‘Hidden Britain’ category.

Glow worm

Glow worm (Lampyris noctiluca) displaying against leaf litter

Photographing glow worms is quite an adventure, and a frequently frustrating one, as my earlier blog post on the subject explains.

How short is ‘short’?

The BWPA shortlist comprises around 300 images we were informed, so the shortlist is not especially exclusive it seems! Winners have yet to be announced.

Related links:

Wildlife Photographer of the Year (NOT)

Raft spider hatchlings

My image of a nursery web of raft spiderlings (Dolomedes fimbriatus) was shortlisted in the ‘Behaviour: Cold-blooded Animals’ category of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 competition, run by London’s Natural History Museum, but failed to make it through to the final rounds.

It was fascinating to observe these tiny hatchlings at the edge of a boggy pond as they reacted in unison to potential threats, expanding and contracting in their protective ball.

It would have been interesting to understand a little more about the judging process involved in such a major competition, but feedback was sadly lacking.

Congratulations to The Winners.

Related links:

British Wildlife Photography Awards 2012: A Review

BWPA Logo

The British Wildlife Photography Awards 2012 winners have been announced.

So, who am I to judge…?

1. Overall Winner
Dr Matt Doggett “Gannet Jacuzzi”

For: A wonderful image of gannets plunging beneath the surface of the water whilst fishing. Beautiful gradations of light and plenty of behavioural action on display. Lots of bubbles too! My admiration for photographers who accomplish shots like these without the benefit of land beneath their feet and plentiful air to breathe is immense. A fine winner.

Against: Recent BBC wildlife series have tackled this subject in motion and it’s lost some of its power to surprise perhaps.

2. Winner: Animal Portraits
Neil McIntyre “Red deer stag in pine forest”

For: Everyone likes a mighty stag and the trees frame it nicely. The woodland palette matches the animal’s own colouration in a pleasing way (a better entry in the “Habitat” category maybe?).

Against: Red deer are a very familiar subject for UK wildlife photography (blame Richmond Park) and I’m not sure that this adds much to our knowledge or appreciation of the animals. I’m surprised the judges felt it stood out from the bunch at this level of competition. Could be just the post-processing for web but the focus looks slightly off. Three of the Highly Commended images in this hotly contested category are also oddly unremarkable… curious.

3. Winner: Animal Behaviour
Amanda Hayes “Herring gull and puffin”

For: A great moment well captured as the gull uses its size and strength advantage to raise the indignant puffin off the ground.

Against: I want to know what was the cause of this behaviour and what happened next! If a fuller frame offered any clues they’ve been lost from view. I might have been tempted to add more contrast when processing this image, but the BWPA website editors might be to answer for that.

4. Winner: Urban Wildlife
Phil Jones “Starlings watching the starlings”

For: A very moody image contrasting still architectural forms with the organic movement of a flock of birds. Cleverly calculated exposure time to freeze the perched birds whilst blurring the starlings in flight.

Against: The amazing spectacle of starlings returning to roost has been fashionable in the British media for the last couple of years and accounts for very recent BWPA winners also.

5. Winner: Wild Woods
Jeremy Walker “New Forest in Autumn”

For: A setting sun casting shadows through deciduous woodland! Mmmmm.

Against: Quite bland really. Thousands of images like this on the web and all very nice, just not exceptional in any way. It can be a difficult environment for wildlife photography woodland.

6. Winner: Hidden Britain
Dale Sutton “Leap for freedom”

For: This shot of a bush-cricket frozen mid-leap from a grass stem must have taken a lot of patience to achieve! It reveals something the naked eye couldn’t observe, which fully justifies the time and technology involved.

Against: Not crazy about the final composition but it does provide a useful sense of space. A composite image showing the different stages involved in executing this leap would have been even better! (but possibly would have breached the competition guidelines in this category).

7. Winner: Habitat
Alex Mustard “Grey seal in underwater cave”

For: Another triumph of patience judging from the blurb! Great composition with a bold, colourful foreground, wonderful rocky textures in the middle ground and a cute, inquisitive seal approaching from the rear! The backlighting from the surface is perfectly framed by the rock arch.

Against: Can’t really think how this might have been improved unless the subject was a little closer to the camera and performing some improbable pirouette I suppose! But then that would have overwhelmed the “habitat” element. Will work even better printed large for exhibition display, rather than squeezed down small for online I’m sure – an increasing dilemma these days.

8. Winner: Living Landscape: Connectivity
Stephen William Powles “Culm divided”

For: The hardest part in this category is understanding the convoluted brief I reckon! In this respect the photographer has succeeded admirably. Clearly a bit of planning went into researching and executing this shot of a busy road bisecting a wild landscape at night. Technically and conceptually excellent.

Against: Could have moved the tripod right a fraction maybe? But that would probably have resulted in a horrific road traffic accident  and deceased snapper, so perhaps not. 🙂

9. Winner: British Seasons
Jules Cox “Snow Hare”

For: Snow! Yay! Everyone loves snow and hares too! Huge admiration for anyone who freezes their fingers off in these conditions to get shots like these.

Against: It’s a terrific subject but seen it before done equally well. I don’t think the several frames tell the wider story of the season here or are sufficiently different to justify their inclusion.

10. Winner: Documentary Series
Mark Hamblin: “A fresh approach to a rural tradition”

For: The photographer has made excellent use of privileged access to put this photo story together. Full marks for wading into this controversial area.

Against: The documentary approach assumes some degree of objectivity and even-handedness but the title of this submission and the choice of images and commentary skew this story in favour of the shooters I feel. “Successful fledging of four hen harrier chicks” but how many hundreds of grouse shot from the sky we are entitled to ask and where are the images of those dead birds? It would be interesting to know how this project was funded and facilitated. Difficult for a photographer who needs to keep all parties on-side I would imagine.

So what do you think?

DISCLAIMER: None of the photos I entered in this competition won any prizes! 😉

White Sika Winner

I was exceedingly pleased to learn last week that my image of a white sika deer won the RSPB’s ‘Picture Arne’ photo competition, judged by wildlife broadcasting legend Mr Chris Packham!

White sika deer

Blondie

There are several white sika in the area surrounding Poole Harbour in Dorset. They are a ‘white morph’ since they don’t have the red eyes one would expect in a true albino.

Sika deer (Cervus nippon) are not native to the UK but escaped from captivity on nearby Brownsea Island some decades ago, since when they have made the Isle of Purbeck and surrounding area their home.

The RSPB’s reserve on the Arne peninsula supports a number of scarce species – most notably the dartford warbler (Sylvia undata), but also heath-loving reptiles such as the sand lizard and smooth snake.

I stumbled across this scene late one sultry August evening last year whilst returning home from another photographic project. The young sika stag was browsing in a meadow, accompanied by a small group of other more conventionally coloured deer.

Taken with the Canon EF 100-400mm lens.

Images of Durlston

I was delighted to be voted Winner in the Spring / Summer 2011 ‘Images of Durlston’ photo competition earlier this month, with this image of a juvenile peregrine patrolling the clifftops:

Juvenile peregrine in flight

Juvenile peregrine in flight on clifftops

Durlston Country Park and Nature Reserve is located on the south coast of Dorset just outside Swanage.

I was fortunate enough to be a regular volunteer at Durlston for more than 2 years. This shot was taken on a brief return visit in July of this year, with a Canon EF 100-400mm lens and a bit of luck.

Two peregrines fledged in the area this year and could regularly be seen from the coast path over the summer – alternately terrorising the nesting seabirds on the cliffs below and testing their new wings in mock aerial combat with each other, and with their increasingly unamused parents.

Picture Arne

My image of an osprey with freshly caught bass was Highly Commended in the RSPB’s Picture Arne photo competition judged by BBC TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham:

Osprey with fish. Arne, Dorset.

The RSPB’s reserve at Arne lies on the shores of Poole Harbour in Dorset. The ospreys are regular visitors on their migration south to Africa for the winter.